The Ultimate Guide to Cable Ties 2021

Posted by Tom on 19th Jul 2021

Cable ties are one of the most commonly used and versatile items in the world. They have almost limitless uses - including in industries such as construction, automotive, aviation, agriculture, pharmaceutical, marine and many more.

Read on to find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about cable ties.

What are cable ties and how do they work?


Cable ties are thin flexible strips of nylon, metal or other materials used to hold items together, mainly cables and wires.

They have a ratchet head which the flexible tape section is inserted into. The teeth on the tape section grip into the head, creating a self-locking mechanism. This simple but effective design creates high tensile strength which can be used for many applications.

Who invented cable ties?

American electrical component manufacturer Thomas & Betts invented cable ties in 1958. After Thomas & Betts inventor Maurus C. Logan toured a Boeing manufacturing site, he realised that instead of using nylon cord to tie up materials, there must be a better way. They soon filed a patent for metal cable ties and gave them the brand name Ty-Rap.

What are cable ties made of?

Most cable ties are made of nylon, a synthetic material chosen for its weight bearing properties. There are thousands of types of cable ties made with different materials and properties, from metal, to biodegradable and UV and heat resistant cable ties.

Types of cable ties

  • Standard nylon cable ties- These are the most commonly used types of ties, because of their strength, low cost and versatility. They are used in DIY projects and have a wide range of commercial applications.
  • Specialist cable ties- These include button head and cable tray cable ties, which are ideal for using in situations where access is needed to both sides of a hole (e.g. in automotive, truck and heavy equipment industries).
  • UV and heat resistant cable ties- Agricultural and outdoor industries use UV stabilised and heat resistant cable ties which reduce the risk of deterioration from UV light and heat.
  • Coloured cable ties- Coloured cable ties are used when identification and labelling is important, such as in emergency services or environments with lots of cables.
  • Metal cable ties- Metal cable ties are used in harsher operating environments, for example in production line facilities, oil and gas platforms, aircraft and power plants.

Differences between plastic and metal cable ties

There are several key differences in features between plastic and metal cable ties.Plastic cable ties usually have a lower tensile strength and operating temperature. Take a look at our product comparisons below:

Black nylon cable ties

  • Operating temperature: -40°C to +85°C
  • Min. Tensile Strength (kg) 2.5mm wide:8.1kg
  • Min. Tensile Strength (kg) 13.0mm wide: 114kg

Stainless steel cable ties

  • Working Temperature: -80°C to +540°C
  • Minimum Loop Tensile Strength 4.6mm wide: 89kg
  • Minimum Loop Tensile Strength 7.9mm wide: 160kg

What are the main features of cable ties?

Cable ties have several features that make them versatile for many projects:

  • High tensile strength
  • Thin and flexible
  • Excellent resistance to weathering, ageing and external agents
  • Self-locking for fast and easy application

How to use cable ties

To fix a cable tie to an object, take the flexible tape section and thread it through or round the object. Then insert the tape into the ratchet head and pull it through so the teeth grip. Adjust it to the length you need, and either cut off the excess tape or leave it.

What are cable ties used for?

Cable ties are mainly used to securely hold together and organise electrical cables, so you’ll find them in any place where there are lots of cables. This can include telecommunications and IT infrastructure, TV and film studios, aviation, medical laboratories, manufacturing plants, live music and performance theatre, oil rigs and many more.

There are almost limitless applications for cable ties commercially and in the home for uses other than tying cables - from scaffolding on construction sites to jobs around the garden.

How to undo cable ties

Cable ties were originally designed to be single-use, but it is possible to undo and reuse bigger cable ties using a screwdriver. All you need to do is insert a small flat-head screwdriver to in between the ratchet head and the pawl, and release the tape.

Another option is to use a reusable releasable cable tie which have a trigger style quick release mechanism.

What size cable ties do I need?

The size of cable tie you need will depend on the job they are being used for, and what length, width and tensile strength is required. We sell standard nylon cable ties from 80mm to 480mm in length, to 2.5mm to 12.7mm in width, with varying tensile strengths.

What are the strongest cable ties?

The strongest cable ties are made from stainless steel. They are made from high quality marine grade 316 stainless steel and the strongest ones have a minimum tensile strength of 160kg.

The strongest nylon cable ties can hold a minimum of 114kg.

Are cable ties recyclable?

Most councils in the UK do not accept cable ties in recycling due to their material. If you’d prefer, you can use reusable or biodegradable cable ties.

How long do cable ties last?

How long cable ties last depends on the type of cable ties used and the environment they’re used in. Some will deteriorate faster than others, especially in outdoor or harsh environments. The more UV light, heat, and wear and tear the cable ties are exposed to, the quicker they will break down.

Are zip ties and cable ties the same?

Zip ties and cable ties are the same product. In the UK they are most commonly called cable ties (or cable tidies), and in the US they are usually called zip ties.

How much are cable ties?

Cable ties are very good value for money. We sell a pack of 100 cable ties for £0.46 (including VAT) and offer discounts for bulk orders.

Where to buy cable ties

We sell more than 800 low cost cable ties. Take a look at our extensive range.

Buy GTSE cable management accessories

We also sell accessories that you can use with cable ties. See our cable management solutionsdrill bits and tape.